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EU sortition assembly and legitimacy 6

August 9, 2017

a.) Institutional legitimacy

In comparison with the personal and interpersonal forms of legitimacy, institutional legitimacy concerns itself less with the persons making up the deliberative forum and rather more with the shape of the deliberative forum and the people responsible therefor. In other words, the institutional form concerns those deliberative factors operative within the institutional design and which confer legitimacy on any conclusions at which the forum arrives and puts forward. Note that we are here concerned with the framing of the group’s conclusions more than the conclusions themselves. In short, we aim to give an account of what the instititutional design must look like to secure legitimacy for its own work as the vehicle of a group’s conclusions.

To that end, we isolate four conditions important in establishing a deliberative forum’s legitimacy or illegitimacy: equality (Karpowitz and Raphael 2014, Parkinson 2006), quality of representation, epistemic completeness and open-agenda setting (Caluwaerts and Reuchamps 2016). Of the four conditions, the first, equality, may be the most contestable given the varied meanings which the term connotes: moral equality (Rawls 1971), political equality (Parkinson 2006), equal voice (Stout 2004). Fortunately, the institutional context allows us to refine the condition sought after as the ideal of “equal access to public discussion” (Stout 2004: 168) and, as a result, the need to provide each person sufficient or equal speaking time. For, by shutting out minority voices, the forum itself would lose claims to the more comprehensive notions of moral and political equality.

With this, we turn to the first of the three “input” legitimacy conditions taken from Caluwaerts and Reuchamps (2016). Quality of representation or demographic representativeness hinges on the extent to which each person concerned by the outcome of a deliberation process has an opportunity or equal chance to participate therein. This is most often assured by the use of stratified random sampling, accompanied by further measures to reduce demographic skew from drop-out and self-selection. In this way, the deliberative forum benefits from the presence of a person with whom each person could reasonably identify, an important consideration in establishing the forum’s legitimacy.

To this first “input” legitimacy condition is joined a second, epistemic completeness. A deliberative forum only manifests this factor “to the extent that the participants have access to all public dis- courses or frames on the issue under discussion” (Caluwaerts and Reuchamps 2016: 14). In a word, this factor accrues to a deliberative forum on the condition that its organizers provide participants as much information and access to experts and stakeholders as possible for the essential tasks of problem-framing, deliberation and solution-seeking. Only with a more or less complete view of the matter under deliberation can participants be said to have arrived at conclusions taking account of all relevant points of view. Such taking account guarantees a further measure of legitimacy.

Finally, open agenda setting completes the two preceding factors for Caluwaerts and Reuchamps and by which they designate the rights of “the participants to explore new and adjacent problems” and “to approach the issues more holistically” (Caluwaerts and Reuchamps 2016: 14). To some extent, this factor stands to “epistemic completeness” as its logical extension. In order for participants to adapt the agenda to new and pressing question, they will have need of the information made available through respect of the criterion of epistemic completeness. Moreover, this insulates the deliberative forum from attempts to co-opt or foreclose deliberation (Parkinson 2006) and signals to participants and nonparticipants the presence of a deliberatively legitimate process.

In the end, these four institutional legitimacy criteria may make themselves unevenly felt within a single deliberative forum. At their best, equality, quality of representation, epistemic completeness and open-agenda setting coincide in a single forum and ensure that all points of view are present or represented therein. That said, so long as a certain threshold level of presence or representation is met, we may consider that interpersonal legitimacy is secured, for it admits of degrees. Indeed, it seems that, in such cases, both the group, the forum, and observers would have reason to accept the forum’s conclusions as legitimate. Again, by extension, it is worth asking whether a deliberative forum’s having institutional legitimacy promotes institutional legitimacy in other forums.

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